To my children:
I get the appeal of mom.
I mean, really, who doesn’t?
Someone to comfort you when you’re upset because your scoop of ice cream fell off your cone, or because you smacked your head on the side of the dining room table while you were trying to reach down and pick up your crayons?
Someone who makes chicken alfredo just the way you like it?
Someone who pretty much does exactly what you need her to do exactly when you need it?
There are no boundaries with mom.
You can come find her wherever she might be. Whether she is out in the kitchen making dinner, or in the bathroom, trying to catch a shower. There is nothing wrong with her having an audience even during her most private times, right?
You can talk to her pretty much anytime, too.
Whether you sneak up to her side of the bed at 11 p.m. or 2:35 a.m., or pull on the bottom of her sweater when she is on the phone or you decide that you have a lot of questions about the sky when you are all in the car and she’s just trying to catch a break and listen to the radio.
It’s obvious that her whole world revolves around you, too, because she’s always making you something to eat, always finding your lost toys, always tying your shoelaces, always the one to change your sheets when you puke or pee the bed, always there so that you can climb up into her lap.
…But what about your dad?
You know mom loves you. Because she is pretty much always there. Because she never says no. Because it’s obvious that if you aren’t happy, then she isn’t happy.
Mom is the constant one.
Or so it seems….
From the day I brought you home from the hospital, and for the months ( years, really) after that your world circled around mom, much like she circled around you.
In your tiny eyes, your dad was just the occasional visitor.
I had to remind him often that you guys DID love him. That you asked for him after he left the house for work in the morning. That as you grew, and I slowly became not quite strong enough to lift you up over my head to play rocket with you, or to toss you up high in the air, that he was the only one who could do those things well enough to make you guys squeal with delight from somewhere deep down in your bellies.
I don’t think he always believed me. Because it was kind of obvious that mom was much more appealing to you guys. Mom had the kisses that made the boo boo’s better. Mom made the food that kept your tummy happy. Mom smelled just right, felt just right, looked just right.
But what about your dad?
Your wonderful dad.
How much joy I felt when one day, I realized that daddy finally believed that you guys really, really loved him, too. Because you guys had finally realized just how amazing your dad is.
In the meantime, though, your father was very patient. Because he is actually the constant one, too.
I write this with tears in my eyes because I want you to understand, to know deep down to your bones, how much your father loves you. I want this knowledge to be just as plain and clear to you as the sunshine on your face. He has always loved you.
I write this in all earnestness because I know that in some ways your affection and love for me is a byproduct of the role that I have in your lives. And I know that your daddy, at times and in certain ways, had to actually go through the motions of earning that kind of love from you.
He had to fight for it. Like when he got home at 5:30 in the evening and you were all little and went off to bed by 7:00, and during the only time that he had with you all day, you were tired and fussy and cranky.
He had to fight for it when you only ate from mommy’s bosom and couldn’t be bothered with any part of the outside world for thirty minute chunks of your day.
He had to be persistent when you would bonk your heads or trip and skin your knees, fighting me off from wanting to get there and scoop you up first because it was just wired in me.
But he reminded me that he had everything under control. He still does.
How he clamors to be with you all still. He fights to be with you. He longs to be with you.
He has photos of you hanging on his wall in his office. He has the pictures you drew of that one thing that, well, we don’t really know what it is, in the bottom of his top dresser drawer. He saves every peace of construction paper artwork that you scribble the word “daddy” across.
He took what he could get in the beginning, while you clawed your way up mommy’s leg because that was what you knew, what you preferred.
He waited. And has made the most of every stolen moment he had with you.
He made those squeaking sounds you liked with his mouth while he played with your chubby cheeks, and sang you “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when you woke up from a bad dream and instinctually cried out for mommy.
He asked to be the one to go in to your rooms in my place, and he scooped you up in his big arms and sang softly to you while he swayed with you in the dark until you went back to sleep.
Long before you realized that daddy was super strong and could swing you around the yard by only your arms, and long before you were about to turn 6 and went on your first camping trip with him, and definitely long, long before you both beseeched and begged for him to carry you BOTH up the stairs at the SAME TIME, he loved you.
I mean deep down to the bottom of his being LOVED you.
Mommy has made you thousands of meals, folded your sheets and clothes thousands of times, and kissed your tiny faces thousands of times, while we went through the motions of hundreds of days together.
But your father has always longed to be home with you instead of behind a desk a thousand times. He has wished the hours at work away so that he could rush back home to you, even when you turned him down to instead have mommy put you to bed.
He was rejected hundreds of times for mommy, but patiently bided his time. He has always been there, waiting for you to give him a chance to prove that he’s just as good at mommy at a lot of this parenting stuff.
He has waited eagerly for those moments. Like the first trip to the library, the first to the zoo, your first swimming lesson, your first tee ball practice. He bided his time until you understood enough to realize that he was amazing, too. And that he was just as willing like mommy.
He’s been ready for these moments. The chance to fish your shoes out from under the couch. The times where he pulls his car into the driveway, and you guys are already standing barefoot on the porch, smiling and waiting for him. The chance to kiss your swollen bug bites away.
He has worked for these moments. And he doesn’t always get to be here for everything that he wants to be here for. Like greeting you in the morning when you still have sleep in your eyes, and your hair is a tousled mess. Conversations over breakfast. Squeals in the backyard while you play with the garden hose.
He has to love you from somewhere else a lot of the time. But I promise that he does. I promise you he always has.